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Fresh produce, including eggplant, begs to be eaten

July 16th, 2008 · 4 Comments · Food preparation, recipes

A friend recently bestowed on me this gorgeous bounty from her garden after I said “yes” to her eggplant offer. I was thinking ratatouille until I realized I didn’t have any peppers, and I didn’t want to go to the store or farmers market.

Instead, I used much of the produce to make the following quick-and-easy vegetable stew/sauce that I combined with pasta. But I need your advice. (Keep reading.)

Summer vegetables and pasta

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small-medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 small slender eggplant, cut lengthwise and sliced crosswise
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced
  • 9 or more small plum tomatoes
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1-2 sprigs each fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 8 ounces medium pasta, such as penne
  1. Heat oil in skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 1 minute. Add garlic and eggplant; toss immediately to distribute oil over eggplant (otherwise it quickly absorbs oil where it lands). Stir-fry 2 minutes.
  2. Add zucchini, tomatoes (whole), bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir. Reduce heat to low. Add wine, and cover.
  3. Simmer about 20 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally. Gently squeeze the tomatoes with tongs to eject the innards into the dish and lift out the tomato peel. (You may want to used a spoon to help with the process.) Discard the peel, unless you want it for something else, and remove bay leaf and herb sprigs. (The leaves of the thyme and rosemary probably will have fallen off them stem.)
  4. Cook pasta according to package direction until al dente. Drain.
  5. Combine pasta with vegetable mixture, and serve. Makes 3-4 servings.

Simmered vegetables

The final dish (sorry about the bad photo)

The flavor was excellent, but I wasn’t thrilled with the texture. The eggplant practically dissolved and gave the mixture a starchier texture than I’d prefer.

I have much more experience with the deep-purple American or Italian eggplant, which hold up pretty well in the pot. If the Oriental eggplants typically disintegrate, I probably would simmer the mixture with everything but the eggplant for 10 minutes and then add it for 10 minutes, enough to cook it but not enough to make it gooey. Or, I’d use an equivalent amount of diced, deep-purple eggplant for the full simmer.

So that’s my question: Is this starchy gooiness the usual result of simmering the elongated, Chinese-type eggplant? I haven’t found a good source comparing the cooking properties of the different eggplants. If you know the answer or can point me to a source, let me know!

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